Discussion Week Six: Questions and Answers about Slavery and the Reading.
What questions did or do you have about the reading and about slavery in America? You get points for asking questions which get others to think. You get extra points for helping one another figure out answers to each question. To get full credit for participating in the class discussion, you need to check the posts to the forum several times a week, and you need to participate in a discussion, not just post a single response of respond to others once a week.
Through another class at Reynolds this semester I have learned a significant amount about the origins of slavery in early colonial times so I am going to use this discussion to ask if anyone would like to take a shot at answering the following question: Why do you think a small group of wealthy planters decided to make the transition from indentured servitude to slavery which was much more expensive? The answer to come soon.
I have never sat down and thought about questions to ask regarding slavery. I feel this blog is a very good idea to really get people. After reading Harriet Jacobs Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl I found myself asking the question: What signified a slave owner wanting to sleep with their slaves when they treated slaves as they did, and obviously thought they were better than them?
Erin, I think a lot of it had to do with the assertion of power--they did because they could. It was not to express an attraction, but rather to demonstrate their forcefulness. The helplessness and degradation a girl felt after she had been used by her owner--that was the intent behind the action. The master wished to establish his legitimacy and dominance by taking something that was meant to be precious and almost holy and make into a deplorable punishment. In essence, it was rape, and what is worse, the perpetrator could not and would not be punished in a court of law. They were virtually untouchable. A rapist does not have sex with his victim because he is attracted to her/him (usually); rather, it is a matter of exhibiting control. That is why, I believe, the slave owners slept with their slaves.
In turn, I have my own question: Crevecoeur spoke highly of the treatment of slaves in the North, saying that "they enjoy as much liberty as their masters, they are as well clad, and as well fed; in health and sickness they are tenderly taken care of; they live under the same roof, and are, truly speaking, a part of our families" (Negro Slavery 231). But as he makes these praiseworthy claims, I can only wonder how we would view the situation with an objective account. If we were given the opportunity to step back in time and observe the treatment of the Northern slaves (also, why could they not be emancipated in the North?) would we commend their treatment as much as Crevecoeur did, or would our descriptions parallel his of the South?
My question is a pretty obvious one. Why would anyone pay a lot of money for a worker, and then mistreat them so much to the point they see no other option than to run away? Would it not have been a better idea to offer them a reason to stay as opposed to every reason to want to leave? When someone hires someone to work for them, they do not beat them to make them work. It is no wonder slaves would not want to be in their situations.
Alex, I think that these plantation owners realized that they were losing money by having to free their indentured servants after a while; and I believe they gave them some land or paid them after their term was over. A slave is yours forever, unless you decide to free them. Slaves can also be bought as children, or as a family, ensuring the plantation owners slaves for generations.
Almira, what do you mean "why was slavery bad in America"? As to the second part of that question, slaves were treated horribly, and persisted in deplorable conditions--they were beaten and worked to the point of death. Crevecoeur's letter I think is your best bet on answering your question. In any case, let me put it this way, the industry of the South and North were built upon the backs of slaves while "day after day they drudge[d] on without any prospect of ever reaping for themselves; they are obliged to devote their lives, their limbs, their will, and every vital exertion to swell the wealth of masters; who look not upon them with half the kindness and affection with which they consider their dogs and horses" (Negro Slavery 227 etext). The white population enjoyed all that life had to offer at the expense of someone else's labor, while the slaves toiled with absolutely no promise of escaping certain death. They were treated like animals, in fact, worse than animals! It is for the reasons that we condemn the slave trade of the 1700's and 1800's.
I think its because with indentured servants you evidentally had to grant them freedom. With slaves you own them until they die it was easier to control them and when they have kids you get them to. So after you get the first one and they have kids you will continue to have more and more slaves.
They treated them like that because the slaves knew that even if they ran away they would more than likely still have a bad life because they probably would be killed if they got caught. They treated them like that because the slaves was looked down on so they could treat them any kind of way.
Why would any one think to force someone to do work when they could just pay someone to work for them? When it is so many people who are willing to work hard for a little bit or money. And some people will even work for food.
Erin: To answer your question, I agree with Anna. I think it all has to do with power. They feel that they have the ultimate control over their slaves and by sleeping with them, it is an example of some of the highest power that they have over their slaves. A lot of slave owners would sleep with them and then end up with a child that they could care less about.
Jeromy: I think that slave owners beat their slaves because it is another sign of power. They know that they are afraid, so more than likely they are not going to do anything about it. Some are so scared that they do not have the guts to run away even if thats what they would like to do.
My question is very similar to Sharice's. If plantation owners had so much money, why wouldn't they just hire someone to do the work instead of having slaves? Do you think it is because of the power they have over them? Or do you think that just because it was legal, that they wanted to take advantage of it?
Re: Discussion Week Six: Questions and Answers about Slavery and the Reading.
Kelsey, I think much of it has to do with earning money with the fewest possible expenses. My guess is that it was cheaper to house a group of slaves in lamentable conditions in one house, than having to pay them for their labor. Also, if they were paid, they were also given the opportunity to leave in search of better pay. Such actions would result in wage competition among the plantation owners. Why allow freedom to choose when exercising full control is so much easier? It was not a matter of providing equality and opportunity to prosper (especially to someone whom you viewed inferior to yourself), rather the chief objective was to thrive financially with the least amount of effort on the plantation owner's part.
My questions: What factors thought that would constitute slavery, so far as to remove blacks from their land of Africa. What attributes or rationale was there, beyond skin color, that made the black race inferior?
In response to Almira: Slavery was bad for America because it was unjust. As we well know, all people are born individuals- homo sapiens, with the same body parts, and intellectual capacity. No matter the height, skin complection, weight, religion, or financial status, nothing changes the fact that we are all people on this earth the same as animals, insects, and plants. What was done to slaves was inhumane, no different than sentencing an innocent man to life in prison, kidnapping and holding someone captive for life, or acquiring an animal strictly for labor.
Emmanuel, the slave trade proliferated within Africa's borders prior to America's choice to partake in it. Tribal wars instituted a hierarchy among the different tribes, and the slave market persisted among African's themselves--rival tribes sold their fellow African's into slavery in order to sustain a business (oh, goodness I actually retained something from history class last year!) Interesting fact: in Africa, slaves were more like indentured servants in that they were not enslaved for life. In fact, they were paid and could, eventually, purchase their freedom, and were given the opportunity to rise in social ranking.
The earliest external slave trade flourished way before the Europeans (or Americans, for that matter) became involved. The first Europeans to participate in the slave trade were the Portuguese who wished to cultivate sugar in Africa, a labor intensive task, which few Europeans were willing to do. The Spanish, however, became the first to import slaves from Africa into the New World. The first slaves arrived in Hispaniola in 1501, after the natives, who were initially utilized by the Spanish on the plantations, began to perish in alarmingly large numbers. The point of this little history lesson is that slavery existed way before the Americans participated in it, and that the work that no European could be tempted to do was forced upon the black slaves who could be imported cheaply in substantial numbers. I doubt that it was a matter of skin color, rather it is the view that "they" are not as civilized as "we" are--a slaves life is not as regarded as a fellow Europeans.
In response to Jeromy: I think the mentality of the slave owner was intentionally unsympathetic to the humanity of slaves. This was a time when there was no moralistic sense in regards to status and treatment of people as we have now (through learning from the past). Slaves were treated in a way that showed little remorse. To maintain the same slave or show better treatment, it would not play into the ideals of the time. The treatment was worse than dogs because the slaves had minds of their own. A runaway slave is lost money. To beat them was to invoke fear. To be less harsh or brutal on them would probably mean nothing for a slave, as they would still be enslaved. Any show of individualism was defiance. The idea was to beat them into- and maintain submission.
ANSWER: Jeromy, you are correct. In early colonial times a very few wealthy planters decided to switch from indentured servitude to slavery because of competition. The planter already here that paid for the IS's voyage had to teach him how to plant and harvest. When the time came to set him free he became competition for the original planter. After hundred of planter had gotten hundred of ISs there became too much competition so they made the switch.